Over the next several posts I want to talk about one of the subjects that has fascinated me the most recently, namely chiasmi and ring compositions in the Qur’an. But first, let me explain what those are.
In Biblical studies (particularly of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament), the focus of most scholars over the last two centuries has been on historical and textual criticism: the historical context of the books of the Hebrew Bible, the dates of their composition, their authorship, how the stories developed and how they correlate with archaeological discoveries. Those are all fascinating and important subjects, but in recent decades there has emerged a greater focus on the literary study of the Bible: its poetics, literary devices, literary composition, and its narrative qualities.
Scholars with a literary focus have discerned that various biblical authors employed considerations of symmetry as major principles of composition. (The use of these compositional techniques has since been discerned in ancient Greek, Persian, Indian, and Chinese writings as well, and even in medieval and modern writings and oral literature) There are three major types of symmetrical composition, though they contain many subtypes. Each of these types, as we will see, are also important for the study of the Qur’an.